We are proud to join fine-free libraries across the country. We look forward to welcoming back patrons who have stopped using the library as a result of fines.

The belief that overdue fines motivate patrons to return their materials has guided library policy for many years. However, research has shown that those who incur late fees and are able to pay will keep visiting and borrowing while those who are unable to pay simply stop using the library­—and in some instances fail to return overdue materials.

Changes to our Overdue Policies

  • No more daily fines charged for overdue items.
  • Items available for renewal will automatically be renewed. This does not include inter-library loan items that can only be renewed through MeLCat.
  • Items that are more than 28 days overdue will be billed for replacement.
  • Accounts with bills for non-returned items will be blocked until the items are returned or replacement charges are paid.
  • Replacement charges will be removed if overdue items are returned in good condition.


Overdue Notice Timeline

  • Two automatic courtesy renewals (as long as there are no holds on the item and the item is available for renewal) (email & text only)
  • Notification of non-renewal; Recall notice 2 days before due date (email & text only)
  • 1st Overdue notice sent 7 days after an item is overdue (email, text, or print)
  • 2nd Overdue notice 14 days after due date (email, text, or print)
  • 3rd Overdue notice 21 days after due date (email, text, or print)
  • Account is blocked when items are 28 days overdue
  • Materials are Assumed Lost /Billing notice is sent 28 days after due date (email, text & print)


What Happens if I get Blocked?

  • Materials are assumed lost and you will be billed for replacement.
  • You will not be able to check out any physical materials from the library or through MeLCat.
  • Electronic services and collections will remain accessible to patron accounts that have not expired.
  • Your account may be sent to a private notification service if your balance is $25 or more and the billed items are not returned in good condition or paid for within 28 days after being billed.
  • All accounts that are sent to the notification service, will be charged an additional service fee.


How to Unblock Your Account?

  • Return your materials in good condition and replacement bills will automatically be removed as they are checked in.
  • Pay for the cost of any lost, damaged, incomplete or non-returned materials. Refunds are not available once you pay for an item, even if that item is returned.
  • Speak with our staff at the Checkout Desk about reinstating your account after the items are returned or the replacement fees are paid.


Click on a question below to see the answer to frequently asked questions.
  • When will these changes be implemented?

    The fine-free and billing policy started October 1, 2022.

  • What is fine-free?

    Materials will no longer accrue overdue charges if they are not returned by the due date. Patrons will still be held responsible for replacement charges for lost, damaged, incomplete or non-returned materials.

  • Will there still be due dates?

    Yes. The library still has a set time limit for materials to be borrowed and we expect items to be returned on time. Be respectful of your fellow library users who may be waiting for items to be returned. Bring back materials when they are due so that everyone has equal access to our collections.

  • Have other libraries eliminated over-due fines?

    Yes! In the U.S., more than 500 libraries have adopted fine free policies, and the number is growing every day. Locally, the following libraries have already adopted fine free policies: Comstock Township Library, Galesburg-Charleston Memorial District Library, Kalamazoo Public Library, Parchment Community Library, Paw Paw District Library, Richland Community Library, and Schoolcraft Community Library.

    Browse other Fine-Free Libraries

    Learn More about Fine-Free


  • Why is PDL going fine-free?

    Fines do not encourage the on-time return of materials. What fines do is prevent access for patrons who cannot afford to pay for fines. We want to remove as many barriers to access as possible, and fines represent a significant barrier to children, and other people in our community. We want all district residents to use the library without worrying about whether they can afford it.

  • How does going fine-free affect the library’s budget?

    The Library Board approves a balanced budget annually that does not include revenue from overdue fines and ensures that individuals living within the Portage District Library service area have as much access to their library as possible.

  • What happens when items are overdue?

    Patrons are still responsible for returning materials. Any materials that are 28 days overdue will result in the patron’s account being blocked until the items are returned. When materials are 28 days overdue, patrons will also be charged the replacement cost. Once those items are returned, the entire bill is removed from the patron’s account.

  • How does having lost or damaged item fees on my account affect my ability to use the library?

    A patron will not be able to check out any additional materials until lost materials are returned in good condition or bills are paid. This will not impact access to electronic services.

    Additionally, anyone can come into our location and use our computers, attend our programs, get answers to their questions, or just sit and read, regardless of what they may owe the library.

  • But will patrons turn their materials in on time?

    Interestingly, libraries that have eliminated overdue fines have found that return rates actually go up. By removing the threat of daily accumulating late fines, people are less likely to avoid returning to the library and more likely to bring back any overdue items they’ve checked out. No late fines mean more people using the library.

  • What about increased wait times for holds?

    Our research of other fine-free libraries indicates that hold times are minimally affected. PDL’s collection development team will monitor the number of copies vs holds ratio and adjust accordingly to minimize any effects on wait times.

  • What about fines for items due prior to the policy change?

    If you have items that are currently overdue and they are returned in good condition, you will not be billed for being overdue.

  • Will existing overdue fines be removed?

    Yes, all previous overdue fines have already been removed from accounts. Bills for lost, damaged, incomplete and non-returned items will remain on patron accounts.

  • Are circulation rates hurt when a library goes fine-free?

    No. Studies have shown that circulation rates tend to stay the same or increase with the elimination of fines.

  • Can I get a refund for fines I’ve paid in the past?


  • Will my taxes increase because the library is going fine-free?